Super Eagles land as titanic battle looms

By nesta kizito
Jun 04, 2013
  • Nigeria Super Eagles team arrive for training at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on Tuesday.(Photo by Shuttersped)

  • Super Eagles players arrive at JKIA early Tuesday.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

The final act of the endless intrigues and sub-plot that have characterized the eagerly awaited 2014 World Cup qualifying match between Kenya and Nigeria played itself out on Tuesday morning in the unlikeliest of places.

The weary looking Nigerian team jetted into the country in the wee hours of Tuesday morning but was briefly held up at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport occasioned by a disagreement with Football Kenya Federation, FKF over the team’s transport and accommodation arrangements.

Upon arrival, the 24-man contingent was informed that they had been booked at the 680 Hotel, a three star hotel, but they out rightly declined the offer terming it as substandard. FKF Chief Executive Officer Micheal Esakwa, who was at the airport at 1:45 am to receive the Nigerians, then instructed security detail to ‘detain’ the visitors at the venue as he consulted with a senior federation official on phone.

The standoff lasted close to 45 minutes, before Esakwa yielded to the Nigerians’ demands for them seek their own arrangements for transport and accommodation.

The team is said to have later checked in at Hotel La Mada along the Thika Super Highway.

Throughout the week, the Nigerians have been apprehensive about the kind of reception that awaited them in Nairobi with some Nigerian daily newspapers claiming that Kenya was plotting to avenge the hostile treatment they were subjected to three months ago before the first leg encounter in Calabar, Nigeria.

Contrasting preparations

The two countries have prepared for the match in contrasting styles. While Nigeria have pitched camp for the last two weeks in Germany and even played a friendly match against Mexico last week, Kenya opted for an in-house session bereft of any build up matches.

On Friday night as the Super Eagles held Mexico to 2-2 draw in Mexico City, Harambee Stars were spending their weekend in Naivasha as part of a three-day training camp.

But speaking shortly after arrival, Nigeria head coach Stephen Keshi said he expected a tough match against Kenya.

"The Kenya game will resemble a cup final. It is never easy to win away in Africa and we have to prove that we are worthy champions in Kenya this week."

The coach said midfielders John Ogu and Ogenyi Onazi and striker Ideye Brown took knocks against Mexico but he expects the Europe-based trio to pass the fitness test in time for Wednesday afternoon’s match.

On the other hand, in the absence of two key players, captain Dennis Oliech and goalkeeper Arnold Origi through suspension, Harambee Stars’ worry will be a figurehead to marshal the team on the field of play.

Amrouche’s headache

Coach Adel Amrouche’s headache is the goalkeeping and striking force. But as a fall back plan, the Algerian-born Belgian coach is likely to give Oman-based Kepha Aswani, Karuturi Sports Andrew Murunga and Johanna Omollo a leading role upfront while, Sofapaka custodian Duncan Ochieng looks like Origi’s probable replacement.

Lying bottom of Group F with just two points from three matches, the encounter will be a must-win match for Kenya; anything short of win will effectively bring their journey to Brazil to an end.

Nigeria, who are joint group leaders with Malawi on 5 points, are also had pressed for a win to that will enable them to take command of the group, before departing for Brazil for the Confederations Cup.

Meanwhile, Harambee Stars will find an extra motivation from the cash incentives that have been flowing in by the day ahead of the crucial match.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has led the way with a Ksh.3 million pledge for the team if they win the match.

Nairobi Senator Mike “Sonko”Mbuvi also weighed in with Ksh. 1 million pledged and Ksh. 200,000 for ever goal scored.

On Monday, the team’s kitty was further boosted with Ksh. 3.5 million from UAP Insurance (Ksh. 2 million), Credit Bank (Ksh. 1 million) and Nairobi Water Company (Ksh. 500, 000). Kick off time for the match at the Moi International sports Centre, Kasarani is 4 pm.